There has been a lot of criticism of President Obama. Many people do not like his policies, or his governing philosophy. Many see him as a big-government liberal who will raise taxes, slam the middle class, give the undeserving, such as illegal immigrants, undeserved rights, and move the country in a direction they do not approve of.
Yet there appears to be a fringe element that takes it further.
A burly Pennsylvania correction officer named David McElwee held up a poster of Obama photoshopped as a half-naked African native in a hut with a grass skirt and a bone in his nose. That was Obamacare, “voodoo” health care, McElwee said.
When Ronald Reagan's economic policies were labeled as "voodoo economics" (by his own Vice-President, George Bush, when they were rivals for the Republican presidential nomination), no one, as I remember, used images of darkies as a criticism. Voodoo was understood to be mysterious magic, 'dark' magic, as it were. Reagan's policies were criticized, but his nationality, ethnicity or heritage weren't.
This wasn’t politics, exactly, or at least it didn’t start as politics. It came from deeper down, from a stirring pot of disaffection and resentment that made the president a kind of fantasy villain. They dreamt about him. Obama was, quite literally, their nightmare. “They conjure up all these blood-and-soil feelings about Obama as a stranger, that’s what’s nasty about it,” says David Bromwich, a Yale scholar of literature and political thought.
By July, the town halls had begun, with demonstrations against the president’s health-care-reform initiative, and the far right felt its power. “You can’t put this genie back in the bottle, it doesn’t matter what the corporate media say,” said World Net Daily’s Joseph Farah. At their rallies, this ragtag army exuded confidence that they would plague this president for years, just as Clinton and Bush had been defined by their haters. The liberal media finally began to label the Obama loonies as racist in mid-September, but where had they been all summer?
Afraid to use the term, that's where they were. President Carter finally said it, and liberals rushed to denounce him. So did Stanley Crouch, who is not a liberal, at least by his definition.
And where was Obama himself—as the separate reality grew like a second head on the American polity? He was being restrained and professorial, following the conventional wisdom that the crazies would drive moderates into his arms and leave the Republican Party in the wilderness for decades.
Decades? Who believed that?
Democratic operatives still argue this is the case, but the noise on the right has had an effect. The haters, amplified by cable news, had made him seem weak, a stunning achievement by the opposition. Maybe the pragmatism and absence of drama read as passive, and America abhors passive, needing drama. Obama had promised that reason and civility, once reintroduced in Washington, would win the day. But was that another elitist conceit?
If he had gone toe-to-toe, what would he have been labeled?
A conversation about tactics ensued. Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs dismissed the town-hall madness as the “silly season,” but as it dawned on many Democrats that craziness was not necessarily a disqualifier for participating in the country’s political conversation, it raised private concerns about the limits of Obama’s political gifts. Some wished he had more of LBJ in him. “He’s never been a leader,” said one Democrat. Or, for that matter, more of Richard Nixon. “If I could get one message to David Axelrod, it’s that he should start talking about the silent majority,” said another Democrat.
Who is that concerned? It is only September, and he's been president for eight months. In two months, after a health bill is passed, things will look different.
This is the fringe. I mean, these are loonies, wackos, marginals. Guns, Nazis?
Meanwhile, tea partyers were putting themselves forward as America’s last hope. PRAY FOR TIME, said Margie Souder’s sign in Scranton. What did that mean? It’s a prayer that the movement will not go away before the country is lost to Obama’s godlessness, she said. Well, he prays, too, doesn’t he? “To Allah. Or somebody,” she said, and on the stage, Deborah Johns, one of the movement’s more prominent figures, said, “I do not want a president that bows to the king of Saudi Arabia.”
As opposed to George W. Bush, who holds hands with the king of Saudi Arabia.
The birther question has been pressed by about a dozen imaginative activists over the last year... Each built large, and apparently lucrative, followings on the web, and the Republican Party needed the birthers too much to throw them under the bus. Republican identification was near historic lows, 21 percent, and of that number, a goodly percentage were only too willing to accept the worst claims about the president.
They had nothing else, and loonie tunes are their specialty, anyway. I can see Russia from my front porch, for example, as foreign policy credentials.
“This is nothing new,” says Michael Lind, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, pointing out that “folk conservatism” has been a force in American politics at least since Andrew Jackson.
True. See the Know-Nothings, for example.
Few were willing to contradict the birthers. The party simply didn’t have any other engine. At the September 12 rally in Washington, South Carolina’s Jim DeMint, clad in flannel, said he was more comfortable with the people in the crowd than he was with his fellow senators. He stood not far from signs with swastikas, and DON’T TREAD ON ME signs with coiled rattlesnakes.
A real intellectual heavyweight, the Senator.
The questions about Obama’s legitimacy exploded this July after angry people at town halls held up their own birth certificates and challenged Obama to produce his own, and Lou Dobbs, who runs a strongly anti-immigration show on CNN, picked up the claim. The birthers were born. But the thread has been with us over a year. Back in spring 2008, nascent Obama haters found Obama too exotic to believe, and began looking around for anything they could get against him. One rumor went that his real middle name was Muhammad.
Well, maybe not the prophet's name, but Hussein, grandson of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and son of Caliph Ali ibn abu Talib.
And do these mental midgets know anything much about the Bush money, the Bush heritage?
Not that it made much difference. Where was the vault copy of the birth certificate showing mother and father’s names? What about the height and weight of the baby? “A video of Obama being born in Honolulu with Don Ho playing ukulele in the background would not dispel a thing with these people,” says John Berryhill, an Obama supporter who fights the smears online. “Any additional statement or clarification is a ‘contradiction’ or leaves ‘unanswered questions.’ These are very concrete thinkers who are so fixated on a conclusion that you might as well try to figure out a strategy for converting the pope to Islam. It’s just not going to happen.”
The Philadelphia lawyer is an Obot, the name that Obama haters have given to the Obama supporters who jump into their chat rooms with contradictory evidence. Oddly, a good number of the Obama haters were Pumas—Party Unity My Ass Democrats, who were angered that Hillary had lost the nomination. By the time of Obama’s nomination in Denver, a former Hillary supporter, a Philadelphia attorney named Phil Berg urged on by a Texas investigator who goes by Linda Starr, sued Democratic officials, saying they had a duty to determine whether Obama was a natural-born citizen, or NBC. Berg saw “overwhelming” evidence that Obama was born in Kenya and has accused Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi of “aiding and abetting an enemy.”
They loved Hillary despite Bubba, and now think OBama is a Muslim? C'mon.
The fact that the administration and much of the media ignored them just confirmed the Obama haters’ belief that Obama and his allies are out-of-touch, big-government elitists. The tea partyers sought a return to deep tradition and personal liberty. They were against the czars and all the Ivy League résumés, they blamed Obama for replacing their sampler America with a multicultural new world order. Glenn Beck constantly quoted Founding Fathers in his campaign to “take our country back.” Back where? A sign at the Scranton tea party said, the answer to 2009 is 1776. Nearby, Margie Souder said that Martha Washington reached for the Bible every morning to navigate her life.
As if GW, Jefferson, Jay, Hamilton, Madison and their cohorts were not elitists?
A birther has some facts mixed up, but, what the hell.
“We have Russian subs right off the East Coast right now. This undermines his authority. The Politburo is going to say, ‘Who are you? You’re not a legitimate president.’ ”
Politburo? About 20 years off.